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The YOUTH IMPROVEMENT DIRECTOR



Teresa Bishop, executive director of the Roundtable of St. Lucie County

Teresa Bishop, executive director of the Roundtable of St. Lucie County, heads a three-pronged effort, with the input from many agencies, to help improve the lives of all St. Lucie County residents. ANTHONY INSWASTY

BY PATTIE DURHAM

After years of lugging her suitcase around the nation and overseas for consulting work with various federal agencies, Teresa Bishop has finally been able to put that suitcase on the shelf after taking a job right in her own backyard.

Bishop has worked as a consultant for the past 20 years, helping communities prevent substance misuse and work on juvenile justice reform. A year ago, she was hired to serve as the executive director of the Roundtable of St. Lucie County, a multi-agency facilitator coordinating efforts to work on positive youth development in the community.

“The Roundtable creates a mechanism for people to develop new strategies for their agencies,” Bishop says.

The agency addresses three initiatives: Restoring the Village Youth Initiative, an anti-violence strategy to prevent youth involvement in gang activity; Kids at Hope, which offers hope to students in St. Lucie County schools; and Drug Free St. Lucie, which is looking at environmental factors contributing to substance misuse in the community. The Roundtable and its networks are looking at policies, practices and approaches so youth do not have access to drugs.

Bishop says she grew up as a “Kid at Hope” in a poor household in Connecticut before moving to Florida at 21 to marry. Her husband was from Indian River County and they moved to Gifford. She also lived in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce before moving to Port St. Lucie in the mid-1990s, where she met and married her current husband.

“I love Port St. Lucie,” she says. “Unless God says otherwise, I will meet my Maker here.”

In Connecticut, Bishop says, a young woman could get a good-paying job with just a high school diploma. Florida was very different, she continues, and so she began studies at Indian River Community College. After graduating with her associate degree, she went on to the University of Central Florida to complete a bachelor’s degree.

All her life’s work — the skills she learned, the strategies she employed, the contacts she made — is coming to fruition in her latest endeavor. During the early days of the Roundtable of St. Lucie County, Bishop participated in a network dealing with violent juvenile offenders. She was working at the time with Project Independence, a federal program for single mothers that assisted with education and career training in the hope of moving the clients from public assistance to the workforce, and many of her clients had children who were involved with the Department of Juvenile Justice. “I became an advocate for these women and their families,” she explains.

Much of the knowledge she brings to her new position is gleaned from her years as a counselor at Project Independence and the 20 years she spent developing and working in her consulting business. Bishop started the business and traveled all over the country — and even to Capetown, South Africa — assisting communities with the establishment of substance misuse prevention strategies and procedures. Funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, her work took her to more than 40 states and U.S. territories.

“I went to small communities of 2,200 people and to cities of eight million,” Bishop says. “Frontier, rural or urban, I went anywhere there was an opportunity to help with community problems.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” she adds. “I was able to sit at the feet of many national experts working on various community issues. They took me under their wings and taught me the ropes of working on these issues. They saw some promise in me and helped teach me what I needed to know.”

Through her previous work with a Department of Juvenile Justice network that formed through the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, she met Shaniek Maynard, the former executive director of the Roundtable. When Maynard resigned and moved on to a new job, she encouraged Bishop to apply for her job.

Bishop says she is on a learning curve with this new job. During her years as a consultant, she was living out of that suitcase and working with a small group of her peers deciding on the best approach to an issue. Now, she is listening to advocates from many small pockets in the community and guiding them in the establishment of successful practices that will control the problems. These people, she says, know what is going on in their neighborhoods and all of their information needs to be gathered, assessed and factored into any actions taken.

So, although the suitcase is gone, Bishop still finds herself working to improve life for residents in a community; the only difference is now it’s her own community.



TERESA BISHOP

Age: 57
Lives in: Port St. Lucie
Occupation: Executive director of a non-profit agency
Family: Husband, Carl Bishop; daughter, Nneka Reese
Education: Associate degree, Indian River Community College; bachelor of science in business administration, University of Central Florida
Hobbies: Watching college and professional football, sports, and going to outdoor festivals and concerts
Who or what inspires me: “My daughter inspires me. I want to be all I can be, to be an example for her to be all she can be.”
Something people don’t know about me: “I am an ambivert!”